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Lawmakers consider car-tab payment plans, traffic cameras

(AP)

The newly-minted legislative session started Monday, and we knew that higher car-tab fees related to Sound Transit were going to be a very popular target.

Most of the attention has been focused on bills that would require Sound Transit to use much more realistic car-tab valuations to calculate the fees for drivers in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, but there are a few other transportation issues before lawmakers. (I-405 express toll lanes will be covered later)

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Whether drivers inside the Sound Transit taxing district get that better tab valuation or not, there is another plan to help drivers pay the bill. HB 2357 would allow you to pay for car tabs on a payment plan.

“We have payment plans for everything,” said Representative Kristine Reeves, whose district includes Federal Way. “It seems only natural that we would make it an option for folks to figure out how best to fit car-tab fees into their family budgets, and payment plans seem like the right fit for that.”

Reeves’ constituents have to pay the increased tab fees. She said her bill would allow drivers to pay for tabs just like everything else, including the yearly payment we make now. You could also pay in two installments or quarterly. There would be a nominal fee added to your bill for using the payment plan option.

If passed, this bill would only make payment plans available for those paying the Sound Transit car-tab fees, but it could be expanded to the entire state if it works well.

The next bill to watch is HB 2403, especially if you “love” traffic enforcement cameras. Representative Joe Fitzgibbon wants to add them to transit-only lanes.

“The goal with having traffic cameras to enforce transit-only lanes is to enable those lanes to move more quickly and to ensure that folks aren’t violating the transit-only restrictions in those lanes without having to have police officers pull them over and issue a violation in a way that could be even more disruptive to traffic,” he said.

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Rep. Fitzgibbon is even talking about adding these cameras to the bus lane on the West Seattle Bridge, though that could catch more innocent drivers than violators since many drivers would likely be caught simply by merging across the bus lane, which they have to do to get to the Highway 99 exit.

This bill would only allow the cameras in Seattle, and Representative Fitzgibbon said there would have to be a demonstrated need to put them in.

“We would have to be sure there was going to be some actual benefit of having the cameras in place in those areas, and there would be an actual benefit to movement of traffic and buses through that congested area,” he said. “They’re not just going to suddenly appear everywhere.”

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